Smell the Coffee: Working on working to live

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“The thing I’m finding with Americans,” said a co-worker who hails from Montenegro, “is that so many of them live to work, instead of working to live.”

In our office, there are no slackers. It’s the hardest working place I’ve ever seen. The force is young and driven; signing up for every training opportunity that comes down the pike; joining associations attached to their positions; volunteering at places that will put them in front of potential decision makers. They’re networking beasts.

Almost none have small children, so that isn’t a thing. It’s their own off hours they’re trading to get ahead in this game.

The co-worker who shared his observation seems to aptly straddle both worlds. During office hours, he’s all in, routinely winning any competition that involves hitting numbers. Outside of work, he’s an adventurer who spends as much time as he can traveling to different places, exploring our country. His job makes those things possible. He works so he can live — really live.

He, like the majority of my co-workers, is in the front half of his life. Early into the match. I’m approaching from an entirely different angle, one where I’m all too aware of the trade-off. There are many days when I’ve been so consumed by work while I’m there that I’m consumed by the couch once I’m home.

Life is becoming too short for much more of that.

Not so long ago, within the past three years, I was working from 8 to 5 at one job and then driving straight to the next, inhaling my drive-thru dinner in between. Collapsing into bed only to get up a few hours later and do it again. It wasn’t so I could get ahead in my career or fund an adventure. It was simply done to fund life.

My life had become a conveyor belt. I was living to work and working to live, yet it was hardly living. It was more like surviving.

I know a few people who enjoy their work so much it creeps into their thoughts for the right reasons. They do what they do because they love it, because they’re fueled by it. Not by their drive for success necessarily, but because their work so perfectly suits them. It’s what they were put here to do.

So often, parents steer their children toward careers that we believe will enable our offspring to live a certain lifestyle. In doing so, we’re demonstrating to them what we believe is important, making our priorities and ambitions become theirs. We’re setting a marker they often feel they must reach to be considered a success in our eyes.

It’s easy for parents to get sucked into this weird competition for child bragging rights. It starts with, “When did she take her first steps?” and just builds until simply them playing sports isn’t enough. They need to be awarded a scholarship in that sport. Getting into college isn’t enough, it needs to be Ivy League or full ride.

Is it any wonder record numbers of people are on antidepressants or self-medicating?

We might believe we’re doing our children a favor, steering them toward security. But we might be steering them toward unhappiness at the same time.

According to a 2013 report by, most students choose college majors that don’t really interest them. Out of 80 percent of ACT test-takers who knew what degree they planned to pursue, only 36 percent felt their major suited their interests.

Decisions are being made based on the job market, on guidance from parents and family members, on media predictions. Not on what they enjoy.

There’s a famous Confucius quote, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

That’s what I want for my girl.

That she works to live.

And lives well after work.

Karin Fuller can be reached via email at

Funerals for Monday, July 13, 2020

Alford, Virginia - 11 a.m., Apple Grove Memorial Gardens.

Gibson, Harold - 1 p.m., Fidler & Frame Funeral Home, Belle.

Humphreys Sr., Randall - 2:30 p.m., Ward Road Cemetery, Nettie.

Jackson, Shirley - 1 p.m., Bollinger Funeral Home, Charleston.

Laudermilt, Darlene - 7 p.m., Foglesong - Casto Funeral Home, Mason.

Nichols, Sharon - 1 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Sammons, Anthony - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Tucker, Denver - 3 p.m., Rayne Funeral Home, Eleanor Chapel.